After a first half with poor offensive execution, Penn State and Wisconsin played a nail biter down to the wire. With plenty of Big Ten 2022 NFL Draft talent in the game, it was the first step for many toward the NFL in this edition of Game Notes.
Rasheed Walker, Offensive Tackle
Walker was one of the players I pegged with big talent to take a huge step forward this season and potentially become a first-round pick. Unfortunately, this first game looked like more of a step back than forward. Walker struggled to adjust to any type of pass rush moves and techniques used when out on an island. On one sack, he was left not blocking anyone when inside pressure hit. Not enough of a run push either, plus the flaws in pass protection may mean he is a long way off from hitting that mark.
Jaquan Brisker, Safety
Brisker was impressive as he came back a few times after going down with an injury to get the game-sealing interception. A big physical player, Brisker looked the best he has in his career in coverage as well. Definitely a riser after this game who can make a dent in the NFL Draft.
Jahan Dotson, Wide Receiver
Dotson reminds me a ton of former teammate KJ Hamler. A shifty, athletic threat who can go deep or beat you underneath. Once he catches the ball, his top speed is nearly uncatchable. Not the biggest or strongest player, but a real weapon who helped put Penn State over the top with a long TD reception and a good game overall. Expect to see Dotson’s name off the board in the Top 100 of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Joey Porter Jr., Cornerback
The son of the former NFL All-Pro, Porter showed tackling prowess and solid coverage ability in the game. He is fairly inexperienced but rarely was out of position, even if he doesn’t have high-end speed. A young player who should continue building this season
Tariq Castro-Fields, Cornerback
Castro-Fields was used in a few different roles in the secondary including safety and in the slot as a corner. He looked good in coverage and isn’t afraid to get a bit physical, even with bigger Tight Ends. Jake Ferguson got the best of him once, but Castro-Fields has NFL upside in a role for a defense.
PJ Mustipher, Defensive Line
Mustipher had a lot of work as the Nose Tackle two-gapping and forcing Wisconsin runs to the outside. He was impressive in leg driving his way into filling a big gap as well as lateral mobility when the run came near him. Though he won’t give much pass rush, if you want a run stuffer, Mustipher is a solid options.
Arnold Ebiketie, EDGE
Though he couldn’t get a sack, Ebiketie got some penetration and pressured Mertz at times. The Temple transfer’s lack of athletic ability at his size may be an NFL issue, but that motor runs very hot and is tough to consistently stop.
Mike Miranda, Guard
Miranda played Center in this game and may end viewed as a versatile back-up at the NFL level. With good size and the ability to get a nice pop off the snap, Miranda has the potential to be drafted. He had some trouble truly dominating the Wisconsin defensive line to create big holes up the middle but generally held up in pass protection more than the rest of the line.
Brandon Smith, Linebacker
Smith had a very impressive game flying all over the field with top-notch athleticism. A smooth athlete who can change direction with explosion, Smith was living in the backfield and making plays against the run even when he didn’t record stats. He needs to work on his coverage skills, but they are even developing from last year. A potential Top 50 pick following in Micah Parsons footsteps.
Ellis Brooks, Linebacker
Brooks wasn’t high on my radar before the game, but is now. He was used as a pass rusher, edge setter, and clean-up tackler throughout the game. Good tackling technique and playing low helped Brooks make a few plays, including a sack on Mertz. Not on the draftable radar yet, but he may be able to get there.
Jesse Luketa, Linebacker
Luketa rounded out the linebacking group and was probably the worst out of a good group. He seemed a tad slow to react at times to the Wisconsin offense and was attacked by the run game. He will need to step it up to be in draftable consideration.
Sean Clifford, Quarterback
Clifford was not good in this game, which burns even more when former PSU QB Will Levis was tearing it up for Kentucky. Clifford can move a little bit, but his accuracy looked as bad as it ever has been. He is not an NFL QB.
Noah Cain, Running Back
Cain looked like the best RB for Penn State using a lot of power in short-yardage and scoring a touchdown that way. Add in a big run and 5 catches and Cain’s game kept Penn State in it to get the victory. Though he doesn’t have the long speed, he plays tough and leans into contact. Not a top back yet, but if he gets the opportunity, Cain could be a name to watch this season.
Jonathan Sutherland, Safety
Sutherland is a read and react safety with good closing speed. He seemed to be around most plays and was a good support in playing close to the line or deep to confuse the Wisconsin offense. He might make his future money on special teams.
Brenton Strange, Tight End
Strange rotated with Theo Johnson at TE and showed soft hands in the Pat Freiermuth role. He still has a ways to go, but looks to be developing into a weapon.
Adisa Isaac, EDGE
Isaac is likely to miss most of the season with an injury and did not play in this game.
Marquis Wilson, Cornerback
Wilson was supposedly practicing for the game on both offense and defense, but I didn’t catch him on the field during the game.
John Lovett, Running Back
Lovett did not play in the game
Jake Ferguson, Tight End
Ferguson was the most reliable weapon on the Badgers in this one and his two-way play of blocking and being a big receiving target was utilized. With his soft hands and experience, Ferguson is an attractive NFL candidate and should be a later round selection.
Kayden Lyles, Center
Lyles was solid in pass protection stopping penetration from upfront but wasn’t able to move PJ Mustipher and company too much when filling gaps. A few good plays to spring good runs did help and it may put Lyles on the NFL Draft map.
Faion Hicks, Cornerback
Hicks played well early, forcing some bad passes from Clifford due to his coverage, but as the game wore on more separation happened from Penn State’s outside receivers. His smaller stature won’t help him get drafted, but it was a tough match-up against some good PSU pass catchers.
Matt Henningsen, Defensive Line
Didn’t make a huge impact in the game. Struggled with the interior line of Penn State, especially when trying to penetrate.
Joe Tippmann, Guard
Tippman had a solid game. Though still young, he moves well for his size and was lead-blocking a few big runs. It is doubtful he declares this year, but the building blocks are there for a very good Guard.
Logan Bruss, Guard
Bruss also played pretty well, especially in the run game. The lunchpail Wisconsin offensive line tradition remains with him and his leg push and drive to open big holes for Mellusi. He plays a bit upright and tight in his hips, but there is potential there to be drafted.
Jack Sanborn, Linebacker
Sanborn had an excellent game playing downhill against the run and being solid in zone coverage. He even was used as a stunt rusher and got a sack in the game. A leader with good technique, he should be drafted into the next level and could be a LB who surprises as a big tackle producer.
Scott Nelson, Safety
Nelson played well as an in the box safety who racked up tackles against runners. His coverage against the TEs impressed me too. As a player I hadn’t watched much of, Nelson is one I’ll be keeping an eye on more.
Danny Davis III, Wide Receiver
Davis was the go to target for Mertz and had a solid outing. He isn’t the fastest player at his size, but understands how to run routes and move his feet to get quick separation. A likely late round or undrafted target who could find a way as a reserve at the next level.
Kendric Pryor, Wide Receiver
Pryor didn’t do much in the game and struggled to separate at all. Small and slow does not an NFL receiver make.
Graham Mertz, Quarterback
Mertz was someone I was excited about coming into the year as a good recruit who showed some flashes last season, but this game was bad for him. No real pocket awareness and panic in his technique and footwork, it was very rough. Mertz will need some massive improvement to be a pro QB.
Tyler Beach, Offensive Tackle
Beach had dealt with injuries throughout the spring, and it showed in this game. He did not look fully healthy and struggled with his kick slide and anything involving his leg strength. Eventually, he appeared to reinjure his leg and was replaced.
Andy Vujnovich, Punter
Vujnovich was a highlight for Wisconsin with a big leg and decent hang time. He helped keep Penn State’s offense looking at long fields early in the game.
Leo Chenal, Linebacker
Chenal did not play in the game due to COVID.
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